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American Jobs and the National Debt

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the American people for watching today.

I wanted to talk with my colleagues here today about jobs, how we create jobs in America, and what we are going to do about our national debt. We have a spending problem in America, and we have heard a lot from our colleagues on the other side of the aisle. They have been talking about jobs bills. I heard someone say that we haven't passed any legislation or taken up any legislation in this House that addresses jobs. Well, that puzzles me. Maybe they have been absent, but it seems to me since I arrived here in January, we have been focused on jobs, and I just want to give a few examples.

Number one, this week we have been working on energy legislation that will open up drilling, open up drilling in parts of the country where right now it is prohibited. Those will be jobs. Those are jobs, good-paying jobs in the energy sector. Not only will that allow for the creation of jobs; it will allow for our country to be more energy independent.

We have taken up all sorts of legislation regarding health care since I have been here. We voted to repeal and to work on some legislation to replace the Obama health care law. Well, I talk to small businesses, business owners, all the time, and they tell me that the Obama health care law hurts them; that because of the increased price that they have to pay, that they can't hire as many people. That is a piece of legislation that directly addresses job creation.

There was a provision that a lot of small businesses will tell you about; it was a 1099 provision that was included in the Obama health care law. We repealed that. We were fortunate enough to convince the Senate to pass it and the President to sign it.

I am joined by my colleague from Indiana. I want to say this, and then I am going to turn it over to him. Every time that we deal with our spending problem in this House, every time that we deal with our debt problem and our deficit, every time that we try to get our fiscal house in order and make this government live within its means, the way folks back in Arkansas do, where they live within a budget, every time we do that we are creating a better environment in this country for job creation.

So don't let anyone tell you that there is the issue of the spending and the debt and then there is the issue of the jobs. They are all one issue. They are all one. If we want to see the kind of innovation and job creation that we are accustomed to in this country, if we want to see it continue, if we want to continue to be the leader in innovation and technological advancement and job creation, we better deal with our spending problem, or we are not going to see that kind of job creation.

Furthermore, if we don't deal with the debt, and we have a debt crisis, we are going to see job losses that will make what happened in September of 2008 pale in comparison.

I want to yield to my colleague from Indiana.

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Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. I thank the gentleman from Indiana.

I was thinking about some of what I heard, Mr. Speaker, a few minutes ago. I think that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle believe that if you leave the lid on a full cookie jar, that means you're out of cookies. I would say to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, just because we have banned drilling and exploration for natural gas and for oil on the east coast and the west coast and Alaska and the gulf, just because we've banned it doesn't mean we're out of it. Just because you leave the top on the cookie jar doesn't mean you have run out of cookies.

You have got to actually take specific steps to develop energy. We are an energy-rich Nation. I happen to believe in an all-of-the-above policy. I think we ought to be pursuing renewable energy, wind, and solar. But at the same time we ought to be pursuing natural resources that we can use right now. Natural gas. We have a lot of it in Arkansas, and we would love to continue developing it. It's interesting to me that at a time when this administration put obstacles up to energy development in the gulf and elsewhere around the United States that would help us be more energy independent, at the same time they were encouraging energy production in foreign countries. It makes no sense.

I now yield to my friend from Indiana, Mr. Speaker.

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Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. I appreciate the gentleman's comments.

My colleague from Indiana was just talking about competitiveness. The question is, How do we compete? What is competitiveness? Well, we have to start with the premise that the private sector is the primary job creator in this country. They're not just the primary job creator--they're the primary innovator. They are the primary source of technological advancement. And that leads to jobs. So the question is, Do we want businesses to be attracted to our country or do we want them to flee our country? That's the question.

That's the question of competitiveness. I want to live in an America that is attractive to job creators.

You can talk about big business; can you talk about small business, you can talk about mom-and-pop shops. You don't even have to define each size business; they're all job creators. We've got in my district, the Second District of Arkansas, we've got all sorts of job creators. And I love them all equally. We've got small businesses, we've got Hewlett Packard, we've got Caterpillar. They all create jobs. When businesses look for a home somewhere on this planet, we want them to look at the United States and say, That's where I want to do business. I can do better there. My labor will be rewarded there. The taxes are not so burdensome there. The regulations don't crush my business there. That's where opportunity is. That's the America that we're trying to create.

The gentleman from Indiana referenced some of the conversations he has had with constituents. I have them every day. They come in my office and they say, This agency is not working with me; it's working against me. This part of government is an obstacle. Can you help me? Can you help me break through so that I can just do my business and create jobs and make a living?

That's ultimately the America that we're talking about.

Since we're talking about competitiveness and we're talking about jobs, that ultimately, as some of us were talking about earlier, leads us to a conversation about debt.

I would now yield to my friend and colleague from Arkansas (Mr. Womack).

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Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. Thank you to my colleague from Arkansas.

Mr. Speaker, my colleague makes a great point, and I think what we've been talking about here over the last few minutes is that the jobs issue is not separate from the debt issue. We have to deal with the debt in order to create an environment in this country that attracts business and where jobs can be created.

I want to take just a second here. We've heard a lot about Medicare and about the debt; and I think it's important to emphasize here, as this chart shows, that of our yearly spending, well over half is what we call mandatory spending. That is spending that doesn't have to be renewed every year, spending that's in the books, in the law. It just happens. That includes Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The bad news is, if we do nothing to this big chunk here called Medicare, we do nothing, Medicare goes bankrupt.

This next chart shows that in just a couple of decades, the entire Federal budget at this point right here, the entire Federal budget will be consumed by Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

What does all this tell us? Well, it tells us a couple of things. Number one, we have to do something to reform our system so that we don't have a crisis; and, number two, it tells us that if we don't reform Medicare, it goes away. It no longer exists.

I tell folks all the time when they say, well, you're going to try to end Medicare as we know it, and I say, whoa, whoa, whoa, Medicare as we know it ends itself in just a short number of years. It ends itself. And I say to my friends when they mention something like that, I say, well, if someone really wanted to harm Medicare, they wouldn't propose a bold reform to save it. They would just quietly do nothing because if you quietly do nothing, you kick the can a little further down the road, Medicare goes bankrupt. With no action, Medicare goes bankrupt.

What would that look like? Well, it would look a lot like the President's plan. I don't believe that the President wants to harm Medicare, but I'm certain that he's failed to take the steps necessary to save it. What would a plan look like that harms Medicare? It would look like the President's plan, a plan, a budget that doubles our debt in five and triples it in 10 and does nothing to save Medicare. It's silent on that and on Medicaid and on Social Security.

I would like to yield now to the gentleman from Arizona. Thank you for joining us.

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Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. Thank you for that. Thank you to the gentleman from Indiana.

I think the point that you're making is that we first have to identify the problem, and the problem is a spending problem. We don't have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem. We are spending too much money. We have made promises that the government can't keep. Saying that we just need more revenue is like a gambler who's sitting at a slot machine, saying, ``I don't have a gambling problem. I just don't have enough money.'' We have a spending problem, folks, and that's why we have to talk about all of the different programs, and I have been one who has been willing to say we've got to look at everything at a time like this.

I want to yield to my friend from Illinois, but before I do, I want to point one thing out. You mentioned demagoguery. We're trying to responsibly address the spending problem in all parts of the budget, including Medicare, so I just want to run through a couple of attacks, a couple of misrepresentations that I've been hearing. Then I'd like to hear from my colleague from Illinois, but let me point this out.

The first thing that I heard was that our plan in the House is a voucher program, that premium support,

which is the core of our Medicare reform for those under 55. For those 55 and over, there are no changes, but premium support is the core of those under 55. I stood here on the floor, and I said, This is a program much like the one Members of Congress have, much like the ones that Federal employees have. The gentleman from the other side of the aisle said, It's a voucher plan.

Is it or is it not? It's not a voucher plan, but you don't have to take my word for it.

What's interesting is that, back in 1999, President Clinton recognized that we had a Medicare problem, a spending problem within Medicare. So what did President Clinton do? He appointed a Medicare commission. Who led that commission? One of the co-chairs was a Democrat Senator from Louisiana, John Breaux. John Breaux was an advocate for something called ``premium support.''

So the plan that we're advocating, that we've passed in the House, was not created by a few in a back room last week or a couple of months ago. It's based on something that the Clinton Medicare commission discussed in 1999. I just want to point this out.

This is an excerpt from an op-ed written by Senator Breaux. He says, ``What exactly is a `premium support model,' and what does my particular version do? `Premium support' means the government would literally support or pay part of the premium for a defined core package of Medicare benefits.''

Look at this. This is the Democrat Senator, Clinton's co-chair of the Medicare commission. In 1999, he says, ``This is not a voucher program but an alternative to the current system. My plan combines the best that the private sector has to offer with the government protections we need to maintain the social safety net.''

It's pretty clear it's not a voucher program. No matter what you've heard, it's not a voucher program. I've said repeatedly that it's the type of plan that we have, and others have said, no, that's not true. Well, Senator Breaux thinks it's true. He says, ``I've proposed a premium support Medicare plan, modeled after the health care plan, serving nearly 10 million Federal workers, retirees and their families.'' So there is a lot of misinformation out there, and I ask folks to get the facts.

I would like to yield to the gentleman from Illinois.

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Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. I just want to point out that the gentleman from Illinois mentioned some of the nonsense, some of the attacks that the other side has been making on those of us who are trying to save Medicare and responsibly deal with the budget. The Union Leader newspaper took a look at some of the attacks and said, ``Ending Medicare''--the idea that we're trying to end it--``is a big scary lie.'' And PolitiFact, which is a Web site that takes a look at political attacks--it determines how much validity there is--it gave our colleagues on the other side, it gave their attacks the ``pants on fire'' rating--as in, ``liar, liar, pants on fire''--on their Truth-O-Meter. So there's a lot of misinformation out there.

I would like to now yield to my colleague from Pennsylvania.

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